Meet The Candidate for Somerset County Sheriff, Darrin Russo

Franklin Township: Meet The Candidates - Darrin Russo, Somerset County Sheriff May 15, 2019 at 10:22 PM Darrin Russo, 54, is running for Democrats’ nominee for Somerset County Sheriff. Work/professional experience: I am a retired Lieutenant from the Franklin Twp. Police Department where I served for 30+ years. I organized and supervised the mobilization of large scale operations along with working in major crimes and special operations. I assisted the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, State Police, along with the joint terrorism task force on multiple robbery, narcotics, murder, gang activity and assault investigations. I was promoted to Lieutenant and in that capacity I supervised 16 Officers and 4 Sergeants, running day to day operations. I assisted the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office in several large-scale drug sweeps for distribution and possession. I served as Liaison to the Somerset County Narcotics Task Force and was a Somerset County Superior Court recognized court expert in narcotics. From 1996 to 2002 I served on the NJ State PBA Executive Board as Sergeant at Arms Trustee and Vice President. In 2007 I received the NJ State PBA Silver Valor Award and the Hamilton St. Business District Commendation. In 2009 I received the Marconi Foundation Public Servant of the Year award. In 2015 the Franklin Advocate named me Man of the Year. I was also a two time recipient of the Somerset County 200 Club Valor award. Why are you running for Sheriff? I’m running for Somerset County Sheriff because the current department leadership provides limited direct support to the people of Somerset County and is not an active resource to the families they serve. Most people in Somerset County don’t know who the Sheriff is.  As a street cop in Franklin, I know the value of officers being active and known in the communities they serve. During my time supervising plain clothes units and even in patrol, I always made it a point to reach out and be a part of the community, working with community leaders, schools, and business owners to clean up the neighborhoods.  When I was promoted to Lieutenant, I led my team of officers and sergeants to be visible and active in our neighborhoods, getting to know the people. I plan to implement programs to help improve our community that include protecting our schools and places of worship, forming a task force aimed at combating hate crimes, and overhauling our prisoner reentry programs to ensure that folks who leave jail don’t end up back inside. But first and foremost, I am running for sheriff to bring the department out from the office and into the lives of our community members. What area would you focus on immediately if (when) you are voted in? On day one I would immediately implement community policing rotations for our officers, getting them out of the office and into the communities where they can do the most good. At the same time, my focus will be on overhauling our prisoner reentry program. I have seen firsthand the damage done to individuals, families and communities when people re-entering society from jail are unable to resume productive lives and instead resort to crime to support themselves. When offered the proper resources, the majority of people reentering society from jail leave crime behind and can become productive citizens and taxpayers who contribute to our communities. When prisoners reenter society properly, it helps to build local economies and safe communities for everyone. That is why I will work with non-profit, county and state resources to ease reentry for residents who have served their sentences and have returned to their home communities.

Middlesex-Somerset Counties AFL-CIO Labor Council Honors SCDC Chairwoman Peg Schaffer with Hubert H. Humphrey Friend of Labor Award

[New Brunswick, NJ] - The Middlesex and Somerset Counties AFL-CIO Labor Council met on Sunday at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick for their 36th Annual Awards and Scholarship Brunch where they honored Somerset County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Peg Schaffer with the Hubert H. Humphrey Friend of Labor Award. Wayne Martiak, president of the central New Jersey labor group, presented Schaffer with the award, introducing her to the crowded room as someone who “has for years stood alongside labor, fighting for working families in Somerset County."   “Unions have served as the backbone of American society for generations, providing working families with livable wages, affordable healthcare, and protections in the workplace,” Chairwoman Schaffer stated. “In Somerset County, our two Freeholders have signed on to a pledge to support project labor agreements. Anyone elected in the county knows that we support labor unions and the labor movement and if they don't sign on to that pledge, they don't run in our county. The labor movement runs deep in my blood as my father was a union member, working as a tool and die maker. He worked two jobs and was able to raise our family, putting ten children through college. The labor union was truly a friend of ours. I'm proud of my dad and I dedicate this award to him.”   In addition to Schaffer, who was also recently appointed to Vice Chair of the Democratic State Party, other honorees included Hetty Rosenstein, who was presented with the Middlesex-Somerset CLC Labor Person of the Year award and Donald Nickle, who was presented with the Thomas V. Dooley Humanitarian Award.   Over 200 people were present on Sunday to celebrate the honorees. In attendance were numerous Somerset County elected officials and dignitaries including Somerset County Vice Chair Zenon Christodoulou, State Committeemen Joel Shain and Michael Goldberg, County Clerk Steve Peter, Freeholder Shanel Robinson, Freeholder Candidate Melonie Marano, Sheriff Candidate Darrin Russo, Senator Bob Smith, Assemblymen Joe Danielsen, Joe Egan, Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman, Assemblywoman Linda Carter, Bernards Committeewoman Joan Harris,  Bernardsville Committeeman Dr. Jeff Hammond, Bound Brook Councilman Vinnie Petti, Manville Councilman and Labor Caucus Chair Ron Skirkanish, Manville Council Candidate Roberta Walters, Franklin Councilman Carl Wright, Franklin Councilwoman Crystal Pruitt, Franklin Council Candidate Ram Anbarasan, Black Caucus Chair Tina Jalloh, Franklin Democratic Chairman Ron Jordan, Bernards Democratic Chairwoman Nancy D’Andrea, and Executive Director James Corti.

Excitement and Suspense at Last Night’s Somerset County Democratic Committee Nominating Convention   Marano and Russo Unanimously Selected, LD-21 Goes to An Open Primary

[Manville, NJ] - The Somerset County Democratic Committee met last night at their annual nominating convention to endorse candidates for NJ State Assembly, Somerset County Freeholder, and Somerset County Sheriff in the Primary to be held on June 4. The energy in the air was electric as members from all 21 municipalities and the various Democratic caucuses filled the Manville VFW hall up to the rafters to nominate one of the strongest tickets the Somerset Democrats have seen in years. For a moment, it would have been easy to mistake this year for a Presidential or Gubernatorial election year as the excitement and energy in the Hall was intoxicating.   The event began promptly at 6:45 PM with Congressman Tom Malinowski addressing his home county, praising the Democrats for their commanding victories up and down the ticket in 2018. Nominations of candidates and elected officials in Somerset’s six legislative districts followed. Assemblymen Joe Danielsen and Joseph Egan (D-17), Assemblywoman Linda Carter and Assemblyman Jim Kennedy (D-22), and Assemblymen Andrew Zwicker and Roy Freiman (LD-16) were all unanimously selected by the Convention to continue to represent their constituents in Trenton.   Candidates Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger of LD-25 and Denise King of LD-23 were also unanimously selected to represent the Somerset Democrats on the ballot in the June primary.     The race for the 21st Legislative Assembly District had no shortage of intrigue or excitement. “The screening committee, which included county and local elected officials, state committee members, municipal chairs and chairs of our numerous caucuses, was unable to reach a consensus on whom to recommend to the convention,” stated Chairwoman Peg Schaffer. “Goutham Jois was the only candidate for whom a consensus was reached, but has since removed himself from the race. Because of this lack of agreement, and no clear choice by the delegates I have decided, unless there is strenuous objection by those eligible to vote on this nomination, to let the decision be made by the Democratic voters of the four towns in the 21st district at the polls on Election Day. We will have an open primary for LD-21.”   Candidates Stacey Gunderman, Lisa Mandelblatt, and Jill Lazare were each given the floor to speak to the Convention as to why they would be the strongest candidate to take on Minority Leader Jon Bramnick and Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz in November.   The climax of the night arrived when it came time to consider candidates for the highly anticipated Somerset County Freeholder and Sheriff’s races. Melonie Marano, who served as the Mayor of Green Brook and came within a few points of unseating Freeholder Pat Walsh in 2007, was unanimously chosen to represent the Somerset Democrats as their candidate for County Freeholder. Former Franklin Township Police Lieutenant Darrin Russo, who was backed by the party and came within one percentage point of unseating Sheriff Frank Pronvenzano in 2016, was met with equal enthusiasm as he was chosen to represent the Democrats as their candidate for County Sheriff. Despite rumors of a challenge, no other nominations were made for the County offices   “The name of the game in 2019 is experience,” stated the Chairwoman. “When members of the screening committee met in February to interview candidates for Freeholder and Sheriff, we knew we had the strongest candidates in Melonie and Darrin. Running a campaign is a brutal endeavor and their experiences on the campaign trail, having come close to winning in 2007 and 2016, will better prepare them for the fight that lies ahead. But more importantly, Melonie’s experience as Mayor of Green Brook and in business and Darrin’s leadership as Police Lieutenant in Franklin Township make them uniquely qualified to fulfill the duties of their offices and to better serve Somerset residents.   ###

Response to Freeholder Walsh's Divisive Statement on School Funding

Statement from Somerset County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Peg Schaffer “I was stunned to see Freeholder Pat Walsh’s statement on the Hillsborough school referendum that she opposes the state’s proposal to increase aid to Somerset County schools by eleven percent. School districts in twenty towns will see increases, including her home town of Green Brook, but Walsh chose to be negative and divisive instead of representing families throughout the county. Even more egregious was Walsh’s attack on immigrants, blaming without evidence these hardworking families for the referendum being voted down. Like Donald Trump, Walsh wants to hide her record of raising taxes while cutting services behind attacks on immigrants.”  

St. Patrick's Day Party

[SOMERVILLE, NJ] -- On Sunday, March 10th, following the Somerville St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Somerset County Democrats will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day from 3 to 6 PM at Savor Restaurant in downtown Somerville. Included in the celebration will be Irish food, music, and karaoke.   “We always strive to make sure your voices are heard,” says SCDC Chairwoman Peg Schaffer. “But, at this event, we want to hear your voices singing Irish ballads as loudly as you can. We have a strong turnout each year and space is limited so make your reservations now. It’s a fantastic event for all who want to support some incredible Democrats and have a great time. We expect our local, county and state elected officials and this year’s candidates to join in the festivities.”   Tickets can be purchased online at: For more information, please call James at (973) 919-1793.    

Somerset County Democrats Host “Comedy and Cocktails” Night, Award 2019 Funniest Politician to Somerset Freeholder Candidate Melonie Marano

[Bound Brook] -- The Somerset County Democrats held their annual “Comedy and Cocktails” Fundraiser event on February 21st at the Imperial in Bound Brook, with well over 100 people in attendance. The event was headlined by comedian Kevin Israel and featured the annual “Funniest Politician” Contest.   “Funniest Politician” Contest winner Melonie Marano, Somerset County Freeholder candidate, brought her A-game as she took down two-time defending champion Governor Murphy. Although Liz Gilbert, Executive Director of the NJ Democratic State Committee, left the crowd in tears telling jokes on the Governor’s behalf, Marano proved too formidable as she truly brought down the house with her original and clever jokes.   “After a 2018 campaign season where we won two seats on the Freeholder Board for the first time in decades, we are ecstatic at the excitement and attendance at our first event of 2019,” SCDC Chairwoman Peg Schaffer stated. “The competition this year for the Funniest Politician contest was fierce. Politicians from around the state brought their best material in order to prove their worth. Ultimately, Freeholder candidate Melonie Marano took home the grand prize and sent two-time winner Governor Murphy/Liz Gilbert packing as the audience voted for her through their uproarious laughter."   This year’s Funniest Politician Contest drew elected leaders including: Senator Bob Smith, Assemblymen John Wisniewski, Joe Danielsen, Roy Freiman, and Andrew Zwicker, Assemblywoman Linda Carter, Executive Director of  the NJ State Democratic Committee Liz Gilbert, Somerset County Freeholder Sara Sooy, Freeholder candidate Melonie Marano, Sheriff candidate Darrin Russo, Ocean County Democratic Committee Chairman Wyatt Earp, Michael Murphy, LD-21 candidate Goutam Jois, future young politician Kendy Coxwell Rudy, Bound Brook Councilmen Tony Pranzatelli and Abel Gomez, and Franklin Township Mayor Phil Kramer.

Comedy & Cocktails 2019 Fundraiser

Tickets ONLINE RSVP or questions: call James at (973) 919-1793 Continue reading

The Changing Face of Somerset County Politics: Democrats on Freeholder Board

CHANNEL 12 INTERVIEW: The new class of Congress sworn in Thursday is said to be the most diverse group ever, with more women and more people of color taking seats to represent the American people than ever before.

Malinowski Wins by 16,200 Votes

Democrat Tom Malinowski defeated Rep. Leonard Lance by 16,200 votes in his bid for New Jersey’s 7th district congressional seat.   Final results released by the New Jersey Secretary of State show Malinowski unseating the five-term Republican congressman by a 51.7%-46.7% margin.   Two independent candidates combined for 1.5% of the vote.   Lance dropped 7.38% from his 2016 total and 12.56% from 2014.   Malinowski carried the Union County portion of his district by 13,567 votes (58%-41%), and won Somerset by 8,758 votes (54%-45%). In Millburn, the only Essex town in the 7th, Malinowski won 69% of the vote with a plurality of 3,503.   Lance won Hunterdon by 5,970 votes (54%-44%), Morris by 2,160 (52%-47%), and Warren by 1,498 (54%-43%).   In the 2014 mid-term election, Lance carried Hunterdon by 10,309, Morris by 6,855, and Warren by 2,207. He also won Somerset by 11,452 and Union by 5,267.   In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried the 7th by one percentage point, 48%-47%. Four years earlier, Mitt Romney had won by a 53%-47% margin over Barack Obama.   Malinowski served as an Assistant U.S. Secretary of State in the Obama administration and worked in the Clinton White House.

Democrats Make History in Somerset County Freeholder Race

Somerset County Democrats had an amazing Election Cycle in the Midterms of 2018. 1) For the first time in 40 years, Democrats won two seats on the Somerset County Freeholder Board. Congratulations, Deputy Mayor Shanel Robinson and Somerset County School Board official Sara Sooy, who won seats on the Somerset County Freeholder Board. Shanel is the first African American and Sara is the first Latina to serve on the SCFB. When they take office in January, along with GOP Freeholder Pat Walsh, they will make up the first majority of woman in SCFB history. 2) Bob Menendez won 51% of the Somerset County vote. 3) Tom Malinowski won 52% of the Somerset County CD7 vote unseating incumbent Leonard Lance; first Democrat to win the House seat after 37 years. 4) Bonnie Watson Coleman won 68% of the CD12 vote. 5) Linda Carter won 67% of the LD22 vote. 6) Dr Jeff Hammond, first-time candidate, won another seat for Bernardsville. 7) Joan Harris won a Council seat in Bernards Township; the first time a Dem has won a seat in 20 years! 8) Vinnie Petti, Brad Galeta and Robert Dixon won Council seats in Bound Brook. 9) Patricia Zamorski won a Council seat in Manville. 10) Ray Heck won the Mayor’s office in Millstone with 86% of the vote. 11) Cat Gural and Marvin Schuldiner won Council seats in Montgomery, giving Democrats control of the town government. 12) Democrats Wendy Schaefer, Larry LaRonde, Everett Merrill, Doug Singleterry and Aimee Corzo swept five Council seats in North Plainfield. 13) Jamie Murphy won a seat on the Peapack/Gladstone Council, the second Democrat in two year to win there. 14) Robert Uhrik won the Mayor’s chair in Rocky Hill, Tom Malinowski’s home town. 15) Dennis Sullivan, 15 years after losing the Mayor’s office by THREE VOTES, won by almost 600 votes in Somerville. Tom Mitchell and RanD Pitts won reelection to the Somerville Council. 16) Alison Fetten and Elizabeth Konkle won seats on the South Bound Brook Council. 17) And last – but in many ways not only not least but most – Democrats swept in Watchung! Keith Balla will be the new Mayor, and Lindsay Goodloe and Daryl Eisenberg Knegten will join the Borough Council. We won this year because all 29 campaigns worked together and supported each other. I’m proud of everyone who worked this year, from phone bankers to canvassers to campaign managers to candidates. Thank you all for your tireless efforts, and your reward is more work to win in 2019! Sincerely, Peg Schaffer, ChairSomerset County Democratic Committee Congratulations, Newly-Elected Freeholders, Shanel Robinson and Sara Sooy!